North Bay U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson and a group of Sonoma County high school students called Thursday for the passage of a resolution that would support mental health resources for young people affected by climate change-related disasters.
Thompson, D-St. Helena, held a news conference Thursday with Sonoma Academy students Madigan Traversi and Giselle Perez, who are members of the Schools for Climate Action Campaign, as well as other federal legislators and climate activists.
Traversi and Perez co-authored House Resolution 975 earlier this year with Thompson and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Florida.
The resolution is intended to raise awareness about the mental health toll climate change has taken on teenagers and young adults and to call for federal funding for mental health services that are specific to climate change.
Traversi said she has dealt with depression, anxiety and trauma since her home was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 and burned nearly 37,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.
“When we got our evacuation call, three homes were on fire eight miles away,” she said. “The fire reached and burned my house 20 minutes later.
“These fires were climate related,” she added. “In other states, it may be hurricanes, floods, droughts, extreme weather or storms, but the fact remains, climate-related catastrophes are happening now and along with these climate disasters comes mental health ramifications.”
Thompson and Castor, who chairs the House’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, formally introduced the resolution in March and it has since been sent to the House Subcommittee on Health, which also includes Castor.
The bill has been endorsed by more than 70 environmental and health organizations, including Action for the Climate Emergency, the American Public Health Association and California Environmental Voters.
Thompson praised the students for approaching him about the then-potential resolution, calling them part of “the next wave of leaders.”
“We have a climate crisis, and you don’t have to look very far to see that you’ve got drought, you’ve got fire, you’ve got smoke inundating businesses, people losing their homes, you’ve got floods,” Thompson said. “It’s a very drastic and dire situation that we’re in.”
Perez pointed to the recent West Coast heat wave that pushed temperatures above 110 degrees across the Bay Area as an example of climate change’s everyday effect outside of natural disasters like floods, hurricanes and fires.
“Climate change is impacting us now,” she said. “The most vulnerable among use – children, the elderly and those affected by existing systematic obstacles – are disproportionately affected.
“If the U.S. does not rise to the challenge of implementing bold, systemic and just policies guided by the best-available science, my future and the future of my generation is hopeless,” she said.